A difficult childhood leads a youngster to making life-changing decisions.
|Antagonist Story ▼
He stands on one leg, the other wrapped around it for support and balance. The eleven-year-old stares endlessly into the corner, noticing how the texture on the wall shifts and moves as he lets his eyes relax and lose focus. So many games have been played in this corner. He's marked his growth by the textured shapes that slowly come in and out of his forward view as he's grown over the years. He misses the vaguely horse head-shaped one that he could stare at, pretending it was his friend to feed or ride. But that was when he was much younger. Those days have passed like that bit of textured wall. It's long disappeared, even when he drops his eyes. The slightly house-shaped bit on the wall in his current view doesn't hold as much interest.
Fairly sure he hears his father go upstairs, he lowers his leg to release the tension and pressure on the other. He rotates his head a bit to prepare to endure for what could be another hour or more of this. But he was mistaken. He snaps his head forward and his leg up as if he'd never moved.
His father enters the room again.
The boy sags and sways a bit as if to lose his balance. "Please, Dad. I'm sorry. I promise I won't do it again." His voice young and pleading. He knows a contrite and defenseless tone gets him released sooner, if it doesn't get him further punishment for speaking without permission or showing weakness. The rules of the game can be tricky.
"'I'm sorry,' what?"
His father shoves his head into the wall. It was deserved. They both know it. He was being careless and knows better.
"I'm sorry, Sir," his voice small and earnest. He rounds his shoulders and tucks his head, a natural state that often finds his release.
"I talked your mom into coming home again. We'll see how long she stays this time. Maybe if you'd behave yourself and stop being such a little brat..."
"Yes, Sir. I'm sorry, Sir." Double Sir's. Good opportunity.
"Get out of that corner and go clean the kitchen so it'll be ready when she gets here. I want her to make me a nice, big dinner to make up for the crap you've been feeding me." He wraps his arm around the boy's chest and yanks him away from the wall, spilling him onto the floor at his feet.
He scrambles up, not making eye contact. He's to show dominance everywhere except at home. "Wanna beer, Sir?"
He knows the answer and doesn't wait for the non-reply. He heads to the kitchen to pull a beer from the back of the fridge where he knows the coldest ones sleep, waiting for the moment they are roused from their darkened slumber and bubble forth in excitement. He pops the top on the counter as he's done for years and he heads in to douse any lingering fires in his father's mood.
The TV flickers with an episode of "Cops," a favorite of the two. His father has taught him to love all shows law enforcement, with his earliest memory being him listening to a rerun of "The Andy Griffith Show" in the background as he faced the wall, trying to balance on one foot when he still found standing on two to be a bit awkward, and hearing his mother's choked cries as she begged his father to stop whatever it was he was doing to her. Yes, law enforcement bound their family together, for better or for worse. On the rare occasion that a neighbor called the police, the boy always hoped that television cameras would accompany the officers at the door. Time after time, he was disappointed by both this and the results of any complaints filed. If nothing was going to change, people should just mind their own business.
"Have a seat."
He did and his father put his arm around him in a paternal fashion, then squeezed the belt buckle bruise on his arm from the day before.
"I've got a surprise for your mom after she makes dinner."
The familiar pit swallowed the boy's stomach. He never knew what to feel about his father's surprises for her. On one hand, he knew he loved his mom. She'd hugged him and kissed away many aches and bruises. She cooked for him and never once had laid an angry hand on him. But he also hated her--hated her for leaving him alone with his father, the man who both loved and hated him as well. When he would hear her cries tonight; they twisted at his soul, pulling him in two directions and he didn't know which way to follow.
As much as he loved and hated his mother, he felt doubly the same for his father. His father had taught him how to endure pain without tears. When he was younger, his father had encouraged him, telling him he was strong enough to withstand the stripes as he learned to tolerate the belt. His father assured him it was for the best and that he hated to have to do it, but that a man had to be able to endure pain without showing any notice of it. His father had taught him to lie, though that was an inadvertent happenstance, as had been his lessons on how to read people.
"Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?" the television sings to the viewers.
His father squeezed his bruise again, harder this time.
The boy leaned into it, showing no notice of the pain.
"That's power right there."
Whether his father meant in the police or in the pain, it didn't matter. That's when the boy knew that one day he would be the one with the power. Deputy Nash, he said to himself. It has a nice ring.